Kikwete sacks tourism and transport ministers, at last

Tanzanias controversial tourism minister Ezekiel Maige has finally bitten the proverbial political dust, after a series of gaffes, misleading international organization like UNESCO over the Serengeti highway plans, denying climate change and the shrinking ice caps on Mt. Kilimanjaro, declaring the planned Uranium mining in the Selous as entirely safe and free of dangers and mocking the Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, following the public burning of 5 tons of blood ivory last year in Manyanyi.
Maige, who was at least once overheard to asking someone who is this guy, referring to the embarrassing stories told about him here since his appointment after the last general election in November 2010, when he took over from his junior ministerial position in the same ministry after his predecessor did not make it back to parliament, became a liability for the Tanzanian tourism sector and the last straws for the parliamentary committees were his silence, inactivity and indecisiveness when scandals over wildlife exports and hunting concession allocations emerged, something also reported here to his apparent annoyance.
Tanzania has in the past underperformed vis a vis the countrys enormous tourism potential and much of this deficit is attributed to the lack of creative and visionary marketing, but also the ongoing decampaigning of the destinations over unresolved issues like the Serengeti Highway, the planned soda ash mining on the shores of Lake Natron, the withdrawal of an application to have the Eastern Arc Mountains listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the ongoing attempts to mine Uranium in the Selous and convert the Stieglers Gorge to a hydro electric power plant but as much for a laissez faire attitude over the almost sacred Stone Town in Zanzibar, when plans emerge to construct a high rise hotel in the middle of that UNESCO World Heritage Site. Add the uncertainty over the Coelacanth habitat in the Tanga Marine National Park, where the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism under Maige became a willing accomplice to have a new deep sea harbour constructed right in the heart of that park, it all added straw after straw until the back of the donkey finally broke.
President Kikwete yesterday announced a long overdue cabinet reshuffle by sacking 6 ministers from their positions over various levels of alleged misbehaviour, allegations over misuse and misappropriation of funds and parliamentary moves to censure them. In addition two deputy ministers too were also sacked while two other ministers under fire by parliament were moved to different positions and out of the immediate firing line.
New tourism minister is Hon. Khamis Kagasheki who previously served as deputy minister.
Also sacked was Transport Minister Omar Nundu, who displayed an almost frightening lack of understanding of the aviation sector in the past. He campaigned prominently to throw good money after the bad one already lost for Air Tanzania, but the recent exposures of deals gone bad and leaving government with multi million US Dollars guarantee liabilities from the airline, concealed until the point when the parliamentary committee dug up those buried skeletons finally rang in his departure too.
At this time it may also be appropriate to reproduce added information at hand here over the scandals at Air Tanzania to give the readers a better understanding why that airline ought to be wound up and aviation left to the private sector in Tanzania and that either gross negligence, gross incompetence or deliberate attempts to defraud were at the core of that deal:

According to the excerpts available from official audit report by the Controller
and Auditor General (CAG) for the year 2009/10 that was presented to
the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Public Accounts (PAC) it
is recommended that all officials who caused the delay for the
submission to the Cabinet should be put to task.

Following the continual deterioration of the ATCL (Air Tanzania
Corporation Ltd) its steering committee held a meeting on 1st March 2010,
and came out with the conclusion that to maintain the Airbus contract
is uneconomical because of the following:

(i) The Company has no maintenance facility for Airbus aircrafts
(ii) It has no back up aircraft engine or competent engineers or pilots to
support the operation of the Airbus

It needs about TShs 13.9 billion in 8 months to operate it, noted the CAG
report to the Parastatal Organisations Accounts Committee (POAC) that
has never been made public.

The report affirms: Nevertheless the committees recommendation to send the
matter to the Cabinet for decision was implemented after nine (9)
months while losses were accumulating without any action taken.

Furthermore, whereas the ATCL report dated 14th December 2010,
indicated that the aircraft was found painted in Air Guinea livery
during inspection in September 2010, the statement of accounts
submitted by Wallis Trading Inc. showed the lessor continued to bill
ATCL and by 30th January 2010 the debt stood at TShs 322,671, 841,580 as
detailed below, it further said.

The details show that TShs 21,516,217,580 was for unpaid leased costs,
Sh300,960,000,000 for maintenance cost and TShs 195,624,000 for
maintenance supervision costs. This cost is enough to acquire two
brand new aircraft of the same generation at the cost of $100million
per plane.

The CAG also noted that the submitted report is not the requested one
issued by those inspecting the aircraft and recommended it for lease.
The management was still required to provide the requested report.

On January 22 2012 it was reported that CAG had recommended legal
action against government officials involved in the ATCL signing of
the leasing agreement. It was done prior to approval of the government
guarantee, contrary to Government Loans Guarantees and Grants No 30 of
1974 as amended in 2003, as the guarantee was issued retrospectively
seven months after the flawed agreement was signed.

Background on the lease deal:

ATCL leased the A320 from Wallis Trading Inc. for a period of
six years (72 months) but the plane remained in ATCL hands for 48
months, 41 of which it was grounded for major technical maintenance in

The flawed agreement stipulated that the leasing charges would remain
the same whether the plane was flying or grounded for any reason.

An aviation analyst commented publicly on this in November 2010 but
who understandably preferred to remain anonymous said it was inconceivable
that the lease rate of $370,000 per month remained the same when the plane
was operating and during maintenance, as non-operational lease charges
would have gone down as to $30,000 a month. There would be no
chargeable effects on the plane as it would not be in operation.

The Airbus lease in October 2007 was in line with preparations for
what was expected to be a divestiture of ATCL, which was to be partly
sold to Chinese company Sonangol, which however never signed a formal
contractual agreement with the Government thought it had pledged to buy
ATCL not less than five Airbus aircrafts by 2012 as part of the
proposed privatization scheme.

In line with an eagerly awaited ATCL take-over by Sonangol, the ATCL
management rushed to lease A320 from Wallis Trading, a company
said to have a close working relationship with Sonangol, headed by
influential Hong Kong businessman, Sam Pa.

By the time ATCL entered into the lease agreement in October 2007 the
aircraft was due to go for major technical maintenance, known as C Check
But that fact was only established after the agreement was hastily
penned down, leading to the aircraft to be grounded in France for
seven months.

On its return from technical maintenance in May 2008, the plane
remained in the air for seven months until December 2008 when was
re-grounded for maintenance and never flown ever since, until it was formally
released by ATCL in October 2011 two years before expiration
of the lease agreement though the leasing bills remained as if the plane
had continuously operated throughout the agreed period of lease.

Observers of Tanzanian politics described the sacking of 8 ministers and deputies as nothing short of a political earthquake and noted that parliament had asserted its controlling powers over government, compelling President Kikwete and the key decision making organs of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi ruling party to act or else risk a wider vote of no confidence, something still hanging over the current Prime Minister for his delaying tactics. It remains to be seen how the new faces in the key ministries will reshape policies and bad decisions taken in the past by Maige and Nundu to hopefully reverse in particular the ongoing assaults on the environment and parks.
For now though it is a warm welcome to the new minister of transport Dr. Harrison Mwakyembe and Ambassador Khamis Kagasheki in Natural Resources and Tourism and better fortunes and better understanding of tourism and aviation compared to their shamed predecessors. Watch this space.